A Parent’s Back To School

At the start of the school year, it’s not just the kids who face an adjustment—parents do too. From homework to teacher conference to after-school activities, this time of year can be overwhelming and chaotic.

But don’t despair—help is right around the corner! Join me, along with five other parent coaches, on Friday, Sept. 15, for A Parent’s Back to School Facebook Party, from 5:30 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. Eastern time. Here’s the lineup of topics each coach will discuss, along with giveaways and answering audience questions. Note: All times are Eastern time.

5:30 to 6 p.m. Coach introductions—the giveaways start.
6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Parent Coach Laura Gray on Getting Your School Day Off to a Great Start
6:30 to 7 p.m. Parent Coach Susan Morley on Creating a Family Mission Statement
7 to 7:30 p.m. Parent Coach Trinity Jensen on Avoiding Homework Hassles
7:30 to 8 p.m. Parent Coach Sarah Hamaker on Scheduling Your School Year
8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Parent Coach Liz Mallet on How to Avoid Micromanaging
8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Parent Coach Wendy Faucett on How to Have a Great Parent-Teacher Relationship
9 to 9:10 p.m. Final thoughts.

On Friday, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1892016571016178 to join the fun–you can ask questions, interact with the coaches or just enjoy the party. Hope to see you all soon!

 

How to Help Kids Adjust to Hurricane Displacements

Q: We were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Our house flooded by a few inches, and we had to relocate until we’re able to redo some parts of our house. My husband, 24-month old son, and I are currently living with my sister.

I noticed my son started sucking his finger a lot more and is a bit more clingy than usual. Is there anything I can do to help him during this transition? He also has his own room here, but since the move, we have been sleeping with him. When do we transition him to sleeping back on his own without heightening the anxiety? Thank you!

A: First of all, kudos on trying to establish as normal a situation as you can with your toddler. In 2003, my husband and I, along with our nearly 1-year-old daughter, had to relocate to my in-laws’ home after Hurricane Isabel dropped a tree through our home, so I do understand the stress of leaving home quickly and trying to figure out how to get the house fixed, all while raising a toddler. We ended up living with my in-laws for five months while our house was put back together, so we went through much of what you’re experiencing in transitioning to temporary housing situations in less-than-ideal conditions.

Kids pick up on our anxiety, which is probably why he’s sucking his finger more and being clingy. He doesn’t understand what happened, only that mom and dad are not acting like usual. What worked for us is establishing as normal a routine as you can, including moving him to sleep in his own bed in his own room. There might be a few nights of some crying (just go in and reassure, but try not to pick him up—pat on back, maybe sing a song, etc.

Try to ensure he’s napping as usual and has plenty of time to run around/use up his energy during the day. If you have to meet with people to discuss your house repairs, make sure you bring toys or books or things for him to play with. Also try to stick to his regular diet as much as possible–when we eat well and sleep well, things are generally better all around (and this goes for mom and dad, too).

The more calm you can act, the less anxious he’ll be—a tall order, I know! But remember: children are very resilient and he’ll soon settle into the new environment and routine fairly quickly.

For older children, try not to discuss too much of the situation within their earshot, as too much information can bred confusion and anxiety. But do keep them informed with regular updates as to what’s being done and what to expect in the coming days or weeks.

Also, try to incorporate as much normalcy as possible with family celebrations, trips and/or outings already on the calendar. Another tall order, but that can help to make life seem just a bit off track and not completely derailed.

If your family’s situation isn’t too dire, consider volunteering or helping others in worse straits if possible. A morning spent helping someone shovel mud out of their home when yours only had water damage can help keep things in perspective.

Sleep Isn’t Just for Babies

With the school in full swing, the pressure to pack more into each day accelerates, which usually means sleep, especially for kids, can be sacrificed. “Bad sleep habits affect the whole chemistry of a child or teen’s day,” says Dr. Anayansi Lasso-Pirot, pediatric pulmonologist and interim head of the division of pediatric pulmonology, allergy and sleep medicine at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. At her practice, she sees “tweens going to bed at midnight or later without the parents realizing their children are not sleeping enough….We learn some kids are sleeping six hours a night or less, which is not enough sleep even for an adult.”

My article “Why you need to pay attention to older kids’ sleeping habits” in the Washington Post On Parenting outlines the importance of sleep for older kids and suggests ways parents can encourage good sleep habits. Here are some additional ways parents can help their kids and teens develop healthy sleep patterns.

Model good habits. Parents should place a priority on sleep themselves. “There have been several studies that show a parent who leads by example when it comes to sleep is very effective,” says Dr. Robert S Rosenberg, board certified Sleep Medicine Physician and author of The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety.

Have a set bedtime. Most nights, our 8-year-old goes to bed at 8 p.m., our 10-year-old at 8:30 p.m., our 12-year-old at 9 p.m., and our 14-year-old at 9:30 p.m. “A consistent bed time aids in the development of healthy sleep habits,” says Terry Cralle, a nurse and certified clinical sleep educator.

Turn off all electronics an hour before bedtime. Again, parents should set an example in this area. “What you do before bed can make it harder for you to fall asleep,” says Lasso-Pirot. “For example, if you’re playing a video game, it’s hard to go to bed right afterwards.”

Keep electronics, including cellphones, out of the bedroom. Have a central docking location or basket for devices. “If your child is getting texts in the middle of the night, know that it is a sleep distraction and can affect performance,” says Lasso-Pirot.

“Sleep is important for all of us and the younger you are, the more sleep your body requires to recharge the brain and process information,” says Christine Stevens, a certified sleep consultant with Sleepy Tots Consulting. “Parents must prioritize sleep for their families and set the example for their children with healthy sleep habits of their own.”

How to Help a Bullied Toddler

Q: My guy just turned two and has been in daycare since he was 12 weeks old. My husband and I both work full time and right now, it’s the only option. We love his school. It’s very enriching and he’s learned a ton, except… in the past few months I am getting a call weekly that my child has been bit. He has to bruises on his back right now from bites. He had one on his arm, another on his hand.

The directors and teachers keep saying “It’s developmentally appropriate at this age” [for kids to bite each other] blah blah blah. One or two bites, I get, but weekly? Not okay. They won’t tell us who is doing the biting, and they won’t tell us if it is a repeat offender (but at this point, it has to be or every kid in the class has been taking a shot at my kid).

Instead they are trying to say my 2-year-old needs to start saying, “Stop, I don’t like that.” They say part of the problem is that he is one of the only vocal kids, meaning the others don’t speak and take out their frustration by biting.

What the heck do we do? I do not want my guy getting aggressive and biting back because it’s happening to him. How can we continue to make school a fun place for him and keep him safe?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: My advice would be to look for a new daycare situation. Yes, children bite at this age, regardless of whether or not they are verbal, but to subject your son to biting with enough force to leave bruises on a regular basis, well, that’s another matter.

Your son saying, “Stop that” or something similar isn’t going to stop the biting—not for toddlers, who haven’t developed empathy and often are totally unaware that biting hurts. They also want to do what they want to do, so “telling” them to stop shouldn’t be the solution to this biting problem.

Frankly, I’m more concerned by the directors/teachers brushing this off as your son’s problem and looking to a two-year-old to solve it. Because children this age bite (and hit and push and throw things), a daycare center should train its teachers on how to stop this behavior. It boils down to more supervision, separation of the biter from other children, and perhaps short-term removal of chronic biters from the classroom until the biting phrase stops.

It sounds like they are doing neither of those things, and instead are saying the solution is to rely on the victim to stop the abuse. In my book, that’s not an acceptable adult response to this kind of problem. I realize that finding a new daycare situation won’t be easy, but it’s a necessary step to take for your son.

You might find a willing college student or older homeschooler eager to be an in-home nanny for a few weeks or longer to buy you some time to find a new daycare, one that will not expect a toddler to be part of a biting/hitting/pushing solution.

 

 

Coming to Grips With A Child’s Suicide

By Jean Ann Williams

When I was 50 years old, my youngest child, Joshua, died by suicide. After his loss, I’ve often examined my growing up years, because my mother also died by suicide as well.

Mom seemed well-adjusted when I was very young. But all this changed after she delivered her seventh child and almost died from blood loss. I was 10 years old and the eldest sibling, therefore Mom’s responsibilities were handed over to me. We thought her situation temporary, but Mom was never the same mentally.

I have an old photograph of Mom with my three younger sisters. It was taken after Mom’s near death and her facial expression still sends chills along my spine. She had a wild glint to her eyes; her smile was crooked and forced. She was only 25 years old, the same age as Joshua when he shot himself.

There is more than one way a parent can leave home. Emotionally, my mother packed her bags and left the family a long time before her body stopped living. She was a mere shell of our mom. All the while, over the next six years, I tended to my siblings. I fed them, disciplined them and kept them in clean clothes.

Dad was little help, as he spent most of his time working, and, in the evenings, at the bar with his buddies. However, if I had an especially difficult problem with running our home, I went to my dad to resolve it. Sometimes he did. Sometimes not.

I grew up frustrated. There wasn’t always enough food to eat, nor were there adequate blankets to keep us warm. So often our shoes were too tight on our feet, until my dad bought us more. When I became a teenager, I had little to no social life. I was in constant awe by the freedom my friends experienced.

I must say, though, my dad admired a certain family who had a daughter my age. He allowed me to visit them on the occasional weekend. I watched them conduct themselves and, even though their father was strict, there was security and love in their family. By example, my friend’s mother showed me what it looked like to be an attentive mom and a supportive wife.

Years later, my confidence as a better mother than my own mom shattered when Joshua killed himself. It took several years of deep soul searching, before I concluded I wasn’t a failure as a mother after all. I truly worked at my mommy training with each of my children and enjoyed being their mama.

Yes, my childhood was harsh, but it made me a stronger person. It prepared me for the trials of loss and sorrow which lay in my future. When my son died by suicide, I stubbornly clung to the Lord. He carries me through even today, and I’m grateful.

About Jean Ann Williams
Jean Ann Williams is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes regularly for Putting on the New blog, Book Fun Magazine, and her own Love Truth blog. Jean Ann and her husband have thirteen grandchildren from their two remaining children. They reside in Southern Oregon.

When a Child Reacts Badly to Discipline

For a video answer of this question, visit https://www.facebook.com/parentcoachnova/.

Q: I’ve been using the ticket method* for my fourth grader to tackle some ongoing behavior problems. When she loses all her tickets due to the target misbehaviors, the consequence is to be in her room the rest of the day. Instead of going to her room, she instead throws a major fit and refuses to go. What is the best course of action then?

A: Sometimes, we get hung up on the letter of the law—in this case, that your child isn’t complying with the directive to go to her room. Does that mean the punishment is ineffective? No. Does it mean you should levy different consequences? No. Does it mean you should just ignore the infraction? No.

In this particular case, your child is having a temper tantrum because her behavior choices have resulted in losing her freedom. For the tantrum itself, I’d ignore it. Walk away. When the child has calmed down, reiterate that she should go to her room. Don’t threaten. Don’t plead. Just state and give her The Look (you have one, right?) and stare her down until she complies. This might take a few tantrums before the child realizes that you’re not going to back down.

Even if the child outright refuses to go physically to her room, you can still act like the child is in her room. All other activities stop for the child—no electronics, no friends, etc. So she might be on the floor of the living room, but she’s still “in his room” in all the ways that count.

Remember, what you don’t want to happen is that you get into a battle of the wills with your child—making her go to his room physically, yelling at him to comply, etc. Stay calm, stay cool—you’ve got this!

 

Back to School for Parents

School all over the country is either in session or about to start, which means parents are gearing up for another academic calendar year much like their children. Here are some back-to-school tips for parents.

Image courtesy of digitalart/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  1. Don’t project. Whether you loved school or hated it or fell somewhere in between, parents should try to keep their own thoughts about school to themselves, especially the first few weeks. We can’t predict how the school year will go, so encouraging a child to have an open mind is the best thing we can give them.
  2. Don’t worry. All too often, if something goes wrong the first few weeks of school, we’re off worrying about the entire year. Kids pick up on our anxiety, so stay calm and remember that the school year is long and things can turn around for your child.
  3. Remember who is going to school. Hint: It’s not you. Your child is the one who needs to learn to navigate the school, teachers, classes and homework, and your child should shoulder that responsibility.
  4. Offer guidance at a distance. Don’t get overly involved in homework, etc. Provide structure when necessary but avoid becoming essential to the task or solution to academic problems.
  5. Emphasize your expectations. I’m not talking about grades, but about the kind of student you want your child to be. We’ve always told our kids that they should not be the reason a teacher can’t teach—that they should behave in the classroom. We’ve also told them that we expect them to do their best in school, but that we realize that will look different on a report card from child to child and subject to subject.
  6. Provide support at home. Through interest in their schooling to a good place to do homework to helping them develop an inquiring mind, let them know you’re invested in their academic success.
  7. Be true to their school. Help their school succeed too by volunteering where you can, being responsive with paperwork and teacher requests, and supporting the school in the community.
  8. Encourage reading. Whether it’s a magazine or the local team’s stats in the newspaper or a book, promoting reading will help your child grow and prosper.

What else would you add to this list? How do you prepare for back to school?

Can Parents Help Adult Son?

Q: Our 29-year-old son was essentially a model child growing up—a good student with very few behavior issues. He graduated college seven years ago. In 2010, he was charged twice for possession of marijuana, and also prescribed anti-depressant medication. Upon graduation, he took a construction job, which he then lost because of a DUI and driving illegally on a restricted license. 

After graduation, we had noticed behavioral changes, such as an aggressive, sometimes hostile demeanor. He agreed to see a psychiatrist, but stopped after a short time. As his behavior became increasingly hostile and erratic, we suggested that he return to see the psychiatrist, which he adamantly refused to do. Finally, after one particularly disturbing episode, during which he came to our home acting very strangely and ultimately became verbally and physically abusive, we, upon the advice of a psychiatrist friend, called the crisis mental health hotline and had him involuntarily committed to the hospital. We repeated that awful experience twice in the following month due to his continued bizarre behavior and his refusal to follow up with the mental health support team to which he had previously agreed.

He is currently living alone in a house we own, and refuses to get a full-time job, preferring to get by doing odd jobs for people. Due to privacy issues, we never got a definitive diagnosis from the hospital, but nurses we spoke with mentioned schizo-affective and bipolar disorders. The psychiatrist he had seen prior to his hospitalization had advised us to stay in contact with him and to make sure he had food and shelter. His behavior continues to be unpredictable and we are torn between cutting him off financially and telling him he is totally on his own, or continuing to be supportive, not knowing for certain just what his mental status is. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: First of all, I want to say how sorry I am that you’re going through this. I know it must be extremely painful and difficult to see your son not seek the professional help he clearly needs. However, as you’ve seen, there are limits to what you can do to help him, and unfortunately, you can’t make him get better—he has to want that for himself. And right now, it doesn’t look like he’s in a place to do that.

So what to do? You don’t mention that he’s doing drugs or other substances (alcohol, for example), so it appears that he does need medical intervention, which he is refusing. You already had him committed twice and that hasn’t worked out. If you can—and he’s not destroying your property or clearly endangering himself or others—then continue following the advice of his former psychiatrist.

However, I would caution you against throwing around diagnoses—you can’t know for sure what’s ailing your son, and talking nurses, who can’t tell you because of privacy laws, into speculating will only either give you a false impression or send you down the wrong path. For now, you will have to live with the fact that you might not know what’s exactly wrong with your son.

What you can do is to meet him on his terms (as long as he’s not being abusive to himself or others) and don’t try to change him—just love him and let him know that you do through word and deed. Continue to encourage him to seek medical help, either on his own or with you by his side.

I realize hearing that there’s nothing you can do beyond what your son allows is difficult, but you raised him to be his own person—and by all accounts, you did a great job too. I hope and pray you can find a way to stay in his life even as he spirals into a place that’s not good for him.

All Meals Aren’t Masterpieces (But We Are!)

By Julie Arduini

Our almost 14-year-old daughter falls into the category of special needs because of her health. Her life had a rocky start with a late congenital hypothyroid diagnosis and office error. She had another doctor error that nearly cost her life. There were asthma issues.

As she grew, her health stabilized. We knew she was physically behind her peers, and because of her thyroid, speech delay was also in play. What we didn’t realize was how the mistake from her late diagnosis would affect her. We noticed short-term memory issues. Sequencing problems. The inability to understand instructions.

Added to all of this was a new diagnosis: Albrights Hereditary Osteodystrophy (AHO). We had to watch her Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus levels. Her bones fused together and she ceased growing at 4 feet, 9 inches tall.

I reconciled that this is our normal. She’s had to work harder than others. When we work on things at home, I write everything out. To memorize, we repeat phrases, verses, and numbers to help her recall the information.

This summer we decided we would work together weekly on making dinner. I show her each task and write things out. However, one week I didn’t because we were back from traveling and I thought she would be tired. She came into the kitchen and asked if she could help.

I agreed. I was preparing a separate meal for myself, so I wasn’t focused. I gave verbal directions but wasn’t right there to show her. It was a casserole that required a bowl of spices, a pasta preparation, and a meat dish. As I called out over my shoulder to add this to the spices and to pour the raw pasta into the pot of water, I don’t notice her hesitance. I then ask her to add another ingredient to the spices and to stir the pasta.

She points to the spices. “Do you mean stir this bowl?”

“No, the pasta pot boiling on the stove. Stir the noodles.”

After a minute, I ask if the noodles appeared hard or soft. Her face showed confusion, and she replied both. I knew she didn’t understand, so I walked over to see the state of the pasta.

She’d misunderstood and poured the raw pasta into the spice bowl that now was also combined with the meat. She was stirring a pot of water.

My heart sank and we tried to resurrect the meal, but to no avail. I didn’t want her to think this was her fault, because it was all mine. She asked if dinner was ruined, and if it was because she put the pasta in the wrong bowl.

I gazed at this child of my heart. “You know, not every dinner is going to be a masterpiece. I’ve burned a lot of meals or did something that meant I had to fix something new or buy dinner. But it means the meal failed—we aren’t failures. This isn’t a masterpiece, but in God’s eyes, we are. And nothing changes that.”

She smiled. Dinner might have been ruined, but I managed not to ruin the moment with my daughter. Recovering from dinner is easy—that night, we made plans to grab some food on the way to our event—but reconnecting with my daughter if I’d snapped or blamed her for the kitchen mistakes would have been a much longer process.

About Julie Arduini
Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future is coming soon. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, and also is a blogger for Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

Ticket Method for Toddlers?

Q: For misbehavior, we’re keen on the ‘tickets’ strategy for major offenses. However my twins are under 3 (almost 31 months). Is it possible to use Tickets for children under the age of 3? I think they’re smarter than we adults think, and I believe they understand consequence, but again, not sure if tickets would work. For example, sometimes they will not do as I ask, and may flat out say ‘no’ or will do it in an exaggeratedly slow manner, all the while grinning impishly at me…like going up the step to wash their hands one inch at a time. I don’t intend to repeat myself, and a stern look from me will often do the trick. But I get stuck there sometimes. I don’t know how to win the power struggle when they’re in this toddler phase and don’t have language based memory or foresight of consequences (maybe?) at this age. Thanks for your thoughts.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A: What you’re describing—obeying one moment, asserting their independence the next—is typical toddler behavior. They will obey, but on their terms (slow walking to wash their hands or get their shoes on). That’s just part of the package that is a toddler. And as you’ve discovered, a stern look will usually get your twins moving. But not always, because, well, they are human beings, and not an animal.

So you don’t get into the power struggle with them. How? By figuring out what makes sense to be strict on and what doesn’t. Here’s an example: I had two rules when it came to getting dressed—the clothes must be clean (no digging in the dirty clothes basket!) and the child must dress himself. Other than that, I gave them a lot of leeway, and it showed with what adults would deem mismatched clothing, etc. It wasn’t a battle I wanted to fight because I had other priorities.

Think about what bothers you the most, and use that as your benchmark for strictness. If it’s matching clothes, then you can insist on that. If it’s a particular way to put away laundry, then focus on that. It’s up to you but only pick your top ones, and let the kids do the rest their own way.

Translate that into tasks that need to be done before something else can happen, such as washing hands before dinnertime. If you know your twins like to dawdle at this task, then call them to do the task extra early before it’s time to eat. That way, they can inch up the stool and you’re not waiting on them.

For tasks that need to be done quicker, set a timer. Toddlers love to race a clock, and this can help them. Turn things into a game when possible too (not a competition, with a winner/loser, but a together game).

If one child is consistently slower, see if something else is going on—Is she tired, growing, fighting a cold? Sometimes physical ailments can translate into misbehavior, and while it’s not an excuse, if a parent treats the ailment (putting the child to bed earlier, for example, to help with tiredness), then the misbehavior will likely lessen or go away.

If there’s nothing obvious (don’t spend a lot of time trying to find out—just a quick run-through in your mind about what might be going on will suffice), then you calmly step in to get the child moving when necessary.

As for your question about tickets and toddlers: The answer is that they are not ready for tickets, especially given that they are displaying age-appropriate misbehaviors that are better tackled by following some of the methods outlined in my answer. Don’t worry—you’ll have plenty of time to implement tickets into your household as your children grow up some more.

For how Tickets and other discipline methods work, visit the Discipline Methods section of this website.